4/30/2008 4:06:00 PM
Industry’s reputation will cost us
‘Second only to used car salesman.’ That inauspicious label was given to sales of mobile phone contracts from the government’s watchdog, Consumer Direct, in light of the volume of complaints from customers. Complaints on mobile phone hardware was placed third, and mechanics were fourth.
Most consumers believe the mobile industry is ridden with chancers, from dodgy cashback dealers to corporate giants. It’s pretty galling for an industry that brings out fabulously desirable products, and is supposed to be at the cutting edge of technology and services that there is such a negative perception. The huge charges incurred by consumers over data roaming is the latest example. The case of the customer who racked up a £10,000 bill is not an isolated case.
All the progress around dongles and mobile email warrants genuine excitement, but a dose of responsibility is vital, not just for the reputation but for the commercial longevity of current and future services. Consumers should be advised of the costs of the services, where their bills could spike and how best to manage the costs. But, it is not as if there wasn’t a warning for operators. The EC was previously forced to intervene on roaming charges on calls, so the smart move would be for operators to anticipate the threat and behave responsibly ahead of data roaming (where bill shock is likely to be even higher).
The absence of advice from the operators towards data roaming charges mirrors the same myopia and inertia when dealers were offering unsustainable cashback deals. Customers are more likely to spend more if they trust the industry they are engaging with, rather than the contempt they currently have.